Leiden student Sheryl Lynn Baas wins ECHO award 2014
‘I feel happy, blessed, very grateful.' Sheryl Lynn Baas, Leiden student of Anthropology, was delighted at winning the ECHO award. She impressed the jury with her 'determination and the conscious path she has chosen to use her talents for a greater purpose.'
The ECHO award - a prize for talented students from migrant backgrounds in academic education - is now in its 14th year. The prize has been won by students from Leiden University on no fewer than five occasions. This time Sheryl Lynn Baas was the lucky winner. She is half Philippine and a former Miss Holland who gained national acclaim with her foundation's aid campaign for the storm-hit Philippines, her mother's birthplace.
Sheryl told the jury: ‘I have deliberately integrated three elements in my life: the attention I received after winning the beauty competition, which gave me a platform to let my voice be heard; the decision to invest in my education so as to broaden my knowledge; and setting up my own foundation to construct better infrastructure in the Philippines. My goal is to bring together the worlds of entertainment, knowledge and society and community projects.'
This year the award ceremony was held in Leiden. Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Rector Magnificus, gave the welcome speech: 'We want to prepare our students for a changing world, a world that is becoming ever smaller, while the global challenges are becoming ever greater: the environment, security, energy, health. We need all the talent that we have available to tackle these problems. We need students with a broad outlook - world citizens. That's why Leiden University firmly believes that diversity is so important, and why we have taken a leading role, with the recent appointment of our Diversity Officer. The keywords for us are: empathy, inclusivity, an open mind, feeling at home and learning from one another. I invite all our students to share with us their creative solutions for how to handle these issues.’
Winning the award was for Sheryl the third reason in a row for celebration. 'It was a very special feeling to be put forward by the university, and then I was so happy when I was actually nominated, and now winning the prize! I'm trying to keep my cool when what I really want to do is dance around the room!'
‘I've always wanted to show that I am more than just a pretty face. I feel it's my calling to help people in the Philippines. And I'm now doing the study programme I had always dreamed of; with Cultural Anthropology I'm learning how I can help, and I'm building up a good network. My mother is from the Philippines and she is my inspiration. She comes from a family of 13 children and has known extreme poverty. I am very happy that my parents are here today, although this is really too much for my mother. She has had a stroke, but she insisted on being here today. It is my mother who taught me a very important lesson: Take nothing for granted.'
As well as Sheryl's award, three other prizes were presented. The winner of the Science and Technology Award was Yingying Luo, master's student at TU Delft. She is an alumna of Leiden University, having obtained her bachelor's in Molecular Science and Technology in Leiden. Afterwards she commented: 'I came to the Netherlands from China when I was 11, to build a good future for myself and my family in China. I have shown that it's possible to thrive even in difficult circumstances.' The Technical Award for senior secondary vocational education went to the 'thinker and doer' Faruk Coskun, student of Technical Rail Maintenance. Enko Dijkstra, student of Commercial Economy won the Award for higher professional education.
(14 April 2014)